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William Leggett receives prestigious lifetime achievement award

Dr. William Leggett.

William Leggett, professor emeritus in the Department of Biology and Queen's 17th principal, has received the H. Ahlstrom Lifetime Achievement Award from the Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society for his contributions to the fields of larval fish ecology.

The American Fisheries Society is the biggest association of professional aquatic ecologists in the world, with over 9,000 members worldwide.

"œIt feels good to be singled out by such large group of people who I respect so highly," says Dr. Leggett. "œI didn'™t expect to receive this award so it'™s a big honour and thrill to get it."

Dr. Leggett'™s research focuses on the dynamics of fish populations and his work as a biologist and a leader in education has been recognized nationally and internationally. A membership in the Order of Canada, a fellowship from the Royal Society of Canada, and the Award of Excellence in Fisheries Education are just some of the awards he has received for outstanding contributions to graduate education and marine science.

The Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society recognized Dr. Leggett'™s "œexceptional contributions to the understanding of early life history of fishes that has inspired the careers of a number of fisheries scientists worldwide and has led to major progress in fish ecology and studies of recruitment dynamics."

The award was recently presented in Quebec City at the 38th annual Larval Fish Conference held in conjunction with the 144th annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society.

 

Climate change means Atlantic Canada will see more frequent storms

Hurricanes don’t usually maintain high wind speeds as they make their way toward Atlantic Canada. But ocean warming may be linked to the increasing intensity of storms like Fiona.

Atlantic Canada has been left reeling from the impacts of one of the largest and most dangerous ocean storms to ever hit the region. Hurricane Fiona made landfall as a powerful post-tropical storm on Saturday along the eastern shore of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, delivering heavy rainfall, damaging winds and massive waves.

The storm surge — a rise in seawater level — resulted in power outages, flooded roads, and in southwest Newfoundland, homes were washed away. The southwest coast of Newfoundland was hit particularly hard by extreme waves and storm surge, which were highest on the eastern side of the storm track.

The huge storm had a very low atmospheric pressure (931.6 mb) — which is the lowest ever recorded for a tropical storm that made landfall in Canada. Low pressure weather systems are associated with strong winds and heavy rains.

Offshore, the wave heights exceeded eight to 10 metres on the Scotian Shelf and reached 17 metres at the Banqureau Banks wave buoy.

Past storms

Historically, the Saxby Gale of 1869 was a massive storm that caused significant flooding in Nova Scotia. Other more recent storms, such as Hurricane Juan in 2003 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019 had big impacts, but they also weakened in storm intensity just before making landfall in Nova Scotia.

Hurricanes with the size and strength of Fiona do not usually maintain their high wind speeds this far north. This makes Hurricane Fiona a pivotal event in the Canadian coastal ocean, as it raises the question of when this will happen again.

How did Fiona get into Canadian water with such size and intensity? This is related to its heat source: the ocean. Ocean warming may be linked to the increasing intensity of storms making landfall and to the development of strong hurricanes.

So climate change leads to warmer ocean water at higher latitudes. A warmer future increases the probability that more intense storms will reach Canadian coasts.

Types of impact

Depending on the size and strength of the hurricane, where it makes landfall and the shape of the coast that it strikes, the impacts can be very different.

In addition to large waves and storm surges, hurricanes also bring heavy precipitation that floods the land surface and can affect coastal groundwater systems.

These storms drive strong currents that can erode sediments and change the shape and forms of coasts. They can also affect water quality by suspending and spreading contaminants in harbours.

Hurricanes the size of Fiona may not occur again soon — or, a similarly intense storm could strike Atlantic Canada again within the next few years. We are making progress with recent improvements to hurricane forecasting and real-time coastal modelling.

Being able to predict the size, frequency and impact of storms helps inform warnings, decisions, responses and policies. These predictions are essential for being ready to face the next big storm event when it happens.The Conversation

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Ryan P. Mulligan, Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of the Beaty Water Research Centre, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Shaping the future of sustainable finance

The Institute for Sustainable Finance releases annual report, highlighting the institute’s efforts to support Canada’s transition to an environmentally sustainable economy.

The Institute for Sustainable Finance has published its first annual Impact and Progress Report.

Institute for Sustainable FinanceThe report looks at the ISF’s achievements over the past 12 months in terms of its four strategic pillars: research, education, collaboration, and outreach.

Highlights include: five research reports assessing different dimensions of Canada’s progress in sustainable finance; delivery of public and custom education programs; continued support and collaboration with the Canadian Sustainable Finance Network of academics across North America; producing a series of 11 educational primers on core concepts; support to post-graduate students and researchers; and more.

The report also looks at the impact of the institute’s activities toward aligning financial systems to promote long-term environmental sustainability and economic prosperity in support of Canada’s transition towards a net-zero emissions economy.

Housed at Smith School of Business, the Institute for Sustainable Finance is the first of its kind in Canada. Led by the team of Chair Sean Cleary, Executive Director Sara Alvarado and Director of Research Ryan Riordan, the ISF is a multi-disciplinary network of research and professional development that brings together academia, the private sector, and government to shape Canada’s innovations in sustainable finance.

“At a time when Canada and the world face many climate, technology and geopolitical challenges, our work is making an impact as we help mobilize capital towards sustainable finance in this race to net-zero,” Alvarado says. “We need to remain competitive as a country, continue to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to help finance our economy and ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.”   

Read the report.

Advancing care for burn patients

New research finds that glutamine, previously thought to help with burn injuries, does not improve patients’ time to discharge from hospital.

Headshot of Dr. Heyland
Dr. Daren Heyland, Director of the Clinical Evaluation Research Unit at Queen’s University and principal investigator and sponsor of the glutamine trial.

Queen’s researcher Daren Heyland (Medicine) has spent his career studying what nutrients are best for intensive care patients who cannot eat for themselves, trying to understand if certain nutrients assist with their recovery. Patients in intensive care who cannot eat for themselves are fed artificial nutrition through a feeding tube or an intravenous catheter. For over 20 years, Dr. Heyland has been evaluating the role of glutamine, which is an amino acid that is made in the body and is found in foods like fish, eggs, and nuts.  

Worldwide, burn injuries are among the most expensive traumatic injuries to treat and 50 per cent of burn patients are treated using glutamine. Before adopting this practice more broadly, however, the medical community wanted more evidence of the efficacy of glutamine.

Seeking to understand the role of the amino acid in burn recovery, Heyland has been involved in a decade-long scientific trial involving 1,200 patients around the world with severe burns. The study was recently published in the high-impact New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), and marked the first time a clinical trial on burn patients was featured in the prestigious publication. It yielded some unexpected results – the glutamine did not appear to harm or help burn patients.

“In the past, small, single-centre trials had suggested that glutamine was beneficial in the recovery of patients with severe burns. However, our previous work with glutamine in stressed, sick patients suggested that glutamine might actually be harmful in critically ill patients with organ failure. The only way to resolve these conflicting data was to conduct a large trial evaluating glutamine in severe burns,” said Dr. Heyland.

Dr. Heyland is the Director of the Clinical Evaluation Research Unit at Queen’s University, which functioned as the coordinating centre for the trial. He also serves as the principal investigator and sponsor of the trial, partnering with over 60 hospital burn units in nearly 20 countries.

“It took us 10 years to complete the trial, including recruiting patients and securing funding,” said Dr. Heyland. “The results of this trial will hopefully cause burn units that were using glutamine to put a stop this unnecessary practice.”

The trial was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Department of Defense (DOD) in the U.S. through their competitive granting programs. About 20-30 per cent of wounded soldiers have burns, and the DOD is looking for new ways to manage burns.

Dr. Heyland’s research evaluating the use of nutrition or specific nutrients and their role in improving the recovery of critically ill patients is not over. With $1.5 million in new funding from the DOD, he is now looking at high-dose intravenous vitamin C in burn-injured patients, which may help reduce the amount of fluid burn patients require to stay alive.

Unraveling the mysteries of a brain disease

In recognition of World Alzheimer’s month, Fernanda de Felice tells us about her research exploring this challenging disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) affects memory, thinking, and behaviour, and is the most common form of dementia, contributing to 60-70 per cent of cases worldwide. In Canada alone, over 500,000 people live with dementia – a number that is expected to be closer to a million by 2030. Raising awareness about AD and all forms of dementia is the main goal of World Alzheimer’s Month, a campaign led each September by Alzheimer’s Disease International.

Fernanda de Felice
Fernanda de Felice

At Queen’s, Fernanda de Felice, associate professor in the departments of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences (DBMS) and Psychiatry and a member of the Centre for Neuroscience Studies (CNS), has dedicated over two decades of her research to understanding the molecular mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease. Her team published a seminal study in 2019 on how hormones produced during physical activity can help protect the brain and slow Alzheimer’s progression.

De Felice recently spoke to the Gazette about the connections between the brain and metabolism, perspectives for future strategies to combat Alzheimer’s, and what AD and COVID-19 have in common.

Why did you decide to investigate the links between Alzheimer’s Disease and metabolism?

I started studying this specific area during my post-doc. At that time, we began to see some connections between AD and diabetes. Research showed that patients with diabetes had a higher risk of having AD. Other studies also suggested insulin signaling was altered in AD patients’ brains.

I was curious about the molecular mechanisms that connect these two diseases. We already knew how insulin resistance works in patients with diabetes, and we observed similar mechanisms in the brains with AD. From there, I moved on to study the effects of other hormones in the brain in the context of AD.

What did we learn about our brains and dementia by studying metabolism?

Today, it is widely known that what happens in our bodies can also influence our brains. We know that physical exercise, for example, benefits the brain. We know that our gut microbiota relates to mental health issues like depression, and so on.

While Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that presents later in life, it likely originates from health events and exposures earlier in one’s life. If we can understand how our metabolism impacts our brains, we can potentially develop strategies to prevent, or at least to delay, AD.

How can we stop Alzheimer’s?

An important topic in research is finding biomarkers for early AD diagnosis.

By the time a patient develops symptoms, there is already significant brain damage, and that is hard to reverse. In other words, it is difficult to treat AD, which is why it is crucial that we develop strategies to diagnose it early and delay its symptoms.

What we see in our findings is that a sustained healthy lifestyle, including physical activity and healthy eating, goes a long way. But AD is a multifactor disease, a combination of many aspects of our organism. That’s what makes it so challenging to treat and diagnose this form of dementia.

Microscopic photo capturing cells within the hippocampus,
This microscopic photo captures cells within a brain region, the hippocampus, involved with learning and memory. Every lived experience that we are able to remember has boosted the formation of new connections in our brains. These connections are affected in diseases that impair memory, such as Alzheimer's disease. (Art of Research photo by Natalia de Menezes Lyra e Silva)

If Alzheimer’s and diabetes share the same molecular mechanisms, can we hypothesize that diabetes’ drugs can help us treat Alzheimer’s?

Currently, researchers are looking at administering these drugs to patients with mild cognitive impairment. While there have been some research studies in this area, we haven’t seen much improvement in patients with dementia treated with insulin. However, there are other possibilities.

In a study with Douglas Munoz (also a professor in DBMS and CNS), we obtained exciting results using diabetes drug liraglutide in pre-clinical models. A clinical trial launched in 2021 is investigating the effects of semaglutide in patients with early AD.

We do know that patients with obesity and diabetes who are treated for insulin resistance perform better in cognitive tests than the ones who are not treated. This signals that this kind of intervention might work if started in Alzheimer’s early stages, before there has been much brain damage.

Can you tell us more about your research on the impacts of COVID-19 on the brain? How does it relate to the field of brain-metabolism interactions?

Around 30 per cent of COVID-19 patients have some sort of neurological symptom, like concentration and memory problems, “brain fog,” and others. We did a study with samples of cerebrospinal fluid of COVID-19 patients, trying to understand what was happening – the molecular mechanisms of those neurological symptoms.

We could not find the virus, nor its proteins, in the samples. However, we found that some biomarkers of neurodegenerative pathologies – the same biomarkers we see in AD patients – were there.

We are now working on a longitudinal study with COVID-19 patients who did not have neurological symptoms. We want to know if they will have any alterations in the 18 months following infection. So far, we can say that some patients without any neurological symptoms in the acute phase of infection did have a cognitive decline after COVID-19.

I am interested in understanding what happens in their brains, and then comparing it to the brains of patients with AD.

Funding to enable innovative research

Queen’s researchers will receive close to $700,000 in funding as part of a $64 million announcement to support research infrastructure.

The Government of Canada, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), has announced $64 million in funding to support research infrastructure through the John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF). Five projects at Queen’s will receive close to $700,000 to advance innovative research projects that will have an impact on human health, communications technologies, and renewable materials.

"Canada is world-renowned for our state-of-the-art institutions and talented researchers pushing the boundaries of knowledge," says The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. "Through this Fund, our government is strengthening our leadership and competitive advantage by supporting Canadians to pursue discoveries, overcome challenges and innovate to make a more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable future for all."

The JELF helps universities more competitively recruit and retain outstanding researchers by providing funds needed to acquire the labs, equipment, and facilities.

"Cutting-edge research requires the right infrastructure and tools," says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). "Thanks to the CFI, researchers at Queen’s can acquire the resources they need to accelerate their programs and fuel discovery and innovation that will have an impact on Canadians."

Learn more about the Queen’s projects:

Fernanda De Felice (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences; Psychiatry)

[Photo of Dr. Fernanda de Felice]Dr. De Felice’s project "Testing the potential of extracellular vesicles to deliver therapeutics and to develop biomarkers in Alzheimer’s disease" will help address an urgent need to develop inexpensive, non-invasive diagnostics and efficient treatments to help Canada’s aging population, who are experiencing an increase in Alzheimer’s disease. Her team will investigate the role of irisin, a novel hormone boosted by physical exercise, in memory processes and if increasing it can reproduce or even boost the beneficial actions of exercise in memory. Dr. De Felice also aims to investigate vesicles, cells that originate in the brain and are carried into the body’s circulation, and to develop a simple approach for identifying if they are carrying disease biomarkers.

Vera Vine (Psychology)

[Photo of Dr. Vera Vine]Dr. Vine’s project "Interoception as a mechanism of adolescents’ emotional development" will help address the urgent need to discover the risk mechanisms that drive the co-occurrence of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts among adolescents. Adolescence is a period of rapid emotional change when individuals often have a hard time figuring out what they feel while they are still developing emotion awareness. Dr. Vine’s team will test a promising theory that adolescents develop emotion awareness by having a strong connection between body and mind, or interoception. Her project will examine how interoception helps adolescents develop emotion awareness and how this process is affected by social environments. It will also teach us more about where emotions come from and ultimately lead to better public programs to protect youth from adversity and promote mental health.

Kevin De France (Chemical Engineering)

[Photo of Dr. Kevin De France]Dr. De France’s project "Development of sustainable cellulose- and protein-based building blocks for the fabrication of functional materials" will explore alternatives that could replace traditional plastic-based products. Plastics are generally produced from non-renewable petroleum-based sources, which lead to increased levels of waste and environmental pollution in their production and decomposition. His team will investigate the structure-property-function relationships between the natural building blocks of cellulose and protein, both abundant raw materials, and the materials fabricated from them. The successful completion of Dr. De France’s project will result in the promotion of clean technology for various applications in fields spanning countless sectors that impact everyday life.

Alexander Tait (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

[Photo of Dr. Alexander Tait]Dr. Tait’s project "Quantum internet to the home with cryogenic silicon photonics" will develop key building blocks from entangled photo light sources and single-photon detectors needed to access the more secure quantum internets. Quantum communication technologies promise a high value but also a high price point. Global investments in quantum technologies tend to focus on its applications and cyber security features for corporate and government networks, yet the general population would also benefit as our personal and financial data increasingly moves to the internet. A significant barrier for regular consumers to access these networks is the cost of needed hardware. Dr. Tait’s team will develop single-photon technologies that can be manufactured in existing silicon foundries, as opposed to using specialized semiconductor platforms. This innovation will make quantum internet products more accessible and affordable while presenting commercialization and export opportunities for Canada.

Sunita Mathur (Rehabilitation Therapy)

[Photo of Dr. Sunita Mathur]Dr. Mathur’s project "Detecting and mitigating sarcopenia in chronic disease" will help combat a debilitating disease increasingly affecting Canada’s aging population that causes muscle wasting and muscle weakness. Her team will focus on developing new ways to detect sarcopenia and test novel exercise programs to mitigate the disease through utilizing lab-based measurements and clinical setting methods for both in-person and virtual care. Dr. Mathur intends to establish a Muscle Imaging and Performance Lab at Queen’s that will lead the study of sarcopenia globally and advance the evidence for virtual care to make a direct impact on the healthcare of Canadians.

 

To learn more about the Canada Foundation for Innovation and other funded projects, please visit their website.

Queen's marking Science Literacy Week

Each year, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) celebrates Science Literacy Week, an opportunity to showcase the Canadian research landscape through events and activities for families and children. The theme for Science Literacy Week 2022 is Mathematics. From Sept. 19 to 25, departments across the university will join the festivities through several activities aimed at engaging the public with the wonders of math – from pandemic modelling to geometry adventures.

Mathematics and infectious diseases

Queen’s Department of Mathematics will host David Earn (McMaster University) for a public lecture on "Learning from the pandemics of the last seven centuries" on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 6:30 p.m. The event will take place in the Biosciences Auditorium.

Dr. Earn has been Chair of the Modelling Consensus Table of the Ontario Science Advisory Table for COVID-19, and modelling from his group has helped guide the governmental response to COVID-19. He is also a recipient of the Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Society Research Prize and an Elected Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Dr. Earn will examine how historical records allow us to reconstruct patterns of disease spread, in some cases going back hundreds of years. His group at McMaster has been studying these patterns, analyzing data going back as far as 1348. In the lecture, he will discuss insights obtained from mathematical modelling inspired by these data, as well as the opportunities we have to improve our understanding of plague, influenza, COVID-19, and other diseases that cause pandemics.

The event is free and open to the public. Interested participants are asked to register.

Resources for the community

The Department of Mathematics is also partnering with Kingston Frontenac Public Library (KFPL) to curate a reading list of titles related to mathematics. The suggestions will include fiction books, as well as general interest and popular science titles. The list will be available from Sept. 18 on the KFPL website.

On Sept. 20, KFPL will host an online lunch and learn event, “Imagining the Future with Math.” Troy Day, head of the Department of Mathematics and part of the Provincial COVID-19 Modelling Consensus Table, is one of the panelists, accompanied by Dr. Earn. You can register for the event through the KFPL website.

The Faculty of Education will release a new episode of its Popular Podagogy podcast, which discusses how to combine innovative educational ideas with the everyday life of being a teacher. For the Science Literacy Week special episode, faculty member and host Christ Carlton will interview award-winning author Lindsey Carmichael, who has published several books for children and young adults. She will talk about what science literacy is, why it is important, and what role books play in science literacy.

Mathematics for kids

The Queen’s Vice-Principal Research Portfolio, through Science Rendezvous Kingston, will offer an online adventure for kids, available starting Sept. 19. The project, led by Professor Emerita Lynda Colgan and funded by NSERC, includes downloadable puzzles, released daily, that kids can print, colour, and fold into a booklet.

Award-winning children’s author and illustrator, Peggy Collins has created the characters for the booklet. The adventure features the Time Travelling Tangram Gang, a group of kids who unlock the portal to a time travel machine using tangrams. On their adventures, they meet children from ancient China, Mexico and Egypt who teach them about how mathematics was used during their time and the importance of math to their cultures.

To access information about this project and to download the puzzles, visit the website.

Saskatchewan stabbings: Why Myles Sanderson was granted statutory release

Kingston Penitentiary wall and barbed wire

The violent acts of Myles Sanderson in the Saskatchewan stabbings have raised many questions about why he was in the community of James Smith Cree Nation at all.

First, there are questions about the system of statutory release that saw Sanderson leave federal prison in August 2021. Unlike parole, this is not a form of early release at the discretion of the Parole Board of Canada. Rather, statutory release is an automatic system of structured reintegration triggered once two-thirds of a sentence is completed.

The purpose of statutory release is public safety: it ensures that inmates do not leave a penitentiary without supervision and structure.

When a sentence is over, prison and parole officials are not able to tell a former inmate where to live, whether to abstain from alcohol, whether to communicate with a parole officer and so on. As such, the statutory release period is a critical part of community reintegration through robust supervision tools.

Parole Board not the only body involved

Focusing just on the Parole Board ignores the other equal partner in this system. The Correctional Service of Canada is responsible for the case preparation and the community supervision.

The only way that inmates can be detained past statutory release — until the end of their sentence — is if prison officials bring an application to the board showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the offender is “likely to commit an offence causing death or serious harm to another person” before the expiration of their sentence.

That is a high bar to meet. No such application was brought in the case of Sanderson.

Majority pose no risk

Sanderson’s actions while on statutory release were, statistically, extremely unrepresentative of how people behave on this form of release.

In more than 98 per cent of cases over the past five years, statutory release is completed without a new violent offence. These numbers have been improving over time. The rate of revocation for a violent offence went from 1.6 per cent in 2015-16 to 1.1 per cent in 2019-20.

The majority of statutory releases, 65.9 per cent, were successfully completed with no issues at all. A breach of a condition occurred in 26.5 per cent of cases — not a new criminal offence, but perhaps a failure to communicate with a parole officer as required. Just 6.4 per cent were revoked with a new non-violent offence.

To break these numbers down further: 57 people had their statutory release revoked in 2019-20. These numbers account for a small fraction of violence in this country. In that same year, there were 169,528 adults charged for violent offences.

Some may argue that to eliminate the 57 violence offences that occurred in 2019-20, statutory release should be eliminated. If only it were so simple. Without the supervisory safeguards that come with statutory release, releasing thousands of inmates directly from prison each year would make us profoundly less safe.

Released with reprimand

There have also been questions about the fact that Sanderson’s release was suspended in November 2021 because he failed to inform his parole officer that he was involved in an intimate relationship — a special condition of his release.

In February 2022, following a hearing on that issue, the Parole Board did not revoke his statutory release. Instead, the suspension of Sanderson’s release was cancelled and he was released with a reprimand. He returned to the supervision of Corrections Canada, as well as local police.

There have been widespread suggestions the Parole Board should have revoked his statutory release at the February review. Implicit in that view is the idea that Sanderson would have remained incarcerated — meaning the multiple murders and injuries he committed on Sept. 4 would have been prevented. The stabbing incidents left 10 people dead and 18 injured.

In fact, parole revocation does not mean indefinite prison. It means a recalculation of the statutory release date. The new date arrives at two-thirds of the remaining time before warrant expiry. That means Sanderson likely would have been released by summer. It is impossible to know whether a few more months in prison would have changed his path.

The difference between suspension and revocation

The Parole Board’s February 2022 decision to cancel Sanderson’s suspension, rather than to revoke his statutory release, is nearly 10 pages long. It provides a comprehensive picture of Sanderson’s difficult life and his involvement with the criminal justice system over many years.

It describes how his release was suspended when his ex-spouse contacted his parole officer to report that they had been living together and he had failed to report it. The parole officer expressed concern for the safety of his ex-spouse. It seems his risk to re-offend was elevated at that time. Suspension was a reasonable decision.

At the revocation hearing three months later, the Parole Board had to undertake a fuller analysis. At such hearings, the board considers more than whether there was a breach of conditions – it had to decide whether there is a real risk of re-offending.

This involves careful consideration of numerous factors. Sanderson had not committed a new criminal offence and he had turned himself in immediately. He had been sober for the four months he had been out, confirmed by regular drug tests. He had found work, attended therapy and engaged in Indigenous cultural activities. Sanderson had a new plan to live with someone other than his ex-spouse.

The Parole Board opted to allow his return to the community.

The board’s decision was a reasonable one for that moment in time. It appears to represent careful consideration of the many factors that are in play when assessing risk and broader goals of public safety in the near and long term. It is far from certain that a different decision would have been the key to preventing this tragedy.

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Amy Carter, a lawyer who practices prison law with Grace, Snowdon & Terepocki LLP, co-authored this article.The Conversation

Lisa Kerr, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen's University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Science exposed

Four Queen’s graduate students are finalists in NSERC’s national research photo competition.

How does science look like? Researchers across Canada are showcasing their work in compelling images that provide the public with a new perspective on what goes on inside labs or in field research.

Featuring science across all fields, the Science Exposed contest is organized annually by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). In 2022, four Queen’s students are among the finalists, with their images selected for public voting.

“Researchers are being more frequently asked to share their work with the public, and images are an effective, relatable way to share scientific knowledge; they can convey emotion, beauty, and even surprise, while also fostering curiosity,” says the contest webpage.

Public voting is open until September 18 and the image voted as people’s choice will receive a $2,000 award. A jury will also select three winners for prizes of $2,000 each.

Learn more about the images shortlisted from Queen’s:

Blue-green algal blooms

Malignant brushstrokes (Haolun Tian, PhD student, Biology)

Human activity drives the intensity and frequency of blue-green algal blooms, which threaten aquatic biodiversity and the drinking water supply of millions. The transient and rapid emergence of these blooms into our lakes in late summer makes them difficult to monitor on short notice, particularly in smaller waterbodies. This drone image, taken from 100 m above the ground, shows my collaborators collecting water samples from an algal bloom in Dog Lake, a waterbody on the historic Rideau Canal system. The beautiful paint-like whorls seen from above hide a fetid and noxious “pea soup” that will eventually suffocate fish and other aquatic life when it decomposes in the fall. Using a combination of drone and environmental DNA monitoring, we are able to quickly assess the scale, movement and composition of a small bloom at the fraction of the price of satellite imaging or toxin assessment.

Metalens, an array of nanostructure optical elements

Fabricated nanostructures of a metalens (Masoud Pahlevaninezhad, PhD student, Electrical and Computer Engineering)

Metalens, an array of nanostructure optical elements, is a promising technology that could revolutionize optics by replacing conventional bulky lenses. By adjusting the shape, size and position of nanostructures, metalens can be used for complex imaging settings where conventional lenses fail to provide high-quality focusing. Our group, in collaboration with Harvard University, designed a metalens to incorporate into an endoscopic setting for live tissue imaging of internal organs. One-to-one comparisons of tissue images from both metalens and conventional lenses show metalens’ ability to capture images with noticeably higher resolution and more issue details. This research will ultimately enable a more sophisticated assessment of pathological changes, which could otherwise be easily overlooked by conventional lenses, at early stages of diseases like cancer.

Magnesium sulfate salt crystals

Microfluidically generated salt crystal (Phillip Hillen, MSc student, Chemistry)

Microfluidics is the study and manipulation of fluids at a microliter scale. Droplets can be manipulated using a surface with different wetting characteristics. We generated magnesium sulfate salt crystals by evaporating a droplet of salt water on a microfluidically modified surface, and this image shows a perfectly circular salt crystal, five hundred microns in diameter. While the image is coloured as a result of quality enhancements, salt crystals aren’t colourful.

Aletsch Glacier

Deep blue ICE (Wai Yin Cheung, PhD student, Geography)

Since 2016, Queen’s annually organizes The Art of Research, a photo contest to showcase the work done by faculty, students, staff, and alumni. The competition is aimed at providing a creative and accessible method of sharing the ground-breaking research being done by current and past Queen’s community members and celebrating the global and social impact of this work. Click to learn more.

While working as a glaciological student on Aletsch Glacier, the longest glacier in Europe, I simply enjoyed the freedom of being by myself without the limitations of physical time. I’m amazed by the power of the vast ice field, as it grinds rock off of mountains, erasing the surface of the earth. This experience has taught me to be as firm and as brave as crystal blue ice for any future challenges I may face.

To see other finalist images and cast your vote, visit the Science Exposed webpage.

The right to read

To commemorate UNESCO World Literacy Day, we talked to Pamela Beach about literacy education research and how to provide support for children with reading disabilities.

Boy observes a book shelf with the word "Read".
"Discovering a new chapter", photo submitted by Goonay Yousefalizadeh to the 2022 Art of Research photo contest.

It’s been ten years since the Supreme Court of Canada released a decision recognizing reading as an essential human right. However, providing literacy education and access for all children, including those with reading disabilities and disorders like dyslexia, which make it difficult to process text, is a complex goal. Earlier this year, a report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) called for changes in how the province approaches literacy education. The report made headlines as it was scrutinized by experts across the country.

To recognize World Literacy Day (September 8), we spoke to Pamela Beach, a professor in Queen’s Faculty of Education, about the OHRC report and its main findings. Dr. Beach also talked about her research in literacy education and some of the insights around literacy she has gathered from her work with teachers across Ontario.

What are the highlights of the Ontario Right to Read Inquiry Report?

This has been a work in progress for several years now. The inquiry heard the experiences and difficulties of many families and individuals with reading disabilities like dyslexia and found that Ontario’s public education system has been unable to consistently support students with dyslexia.

One of the report’s recommendations I would highlight is the need for screening in the early years.  Screening tools or early assessments can work as a cautionary flag to teachers and educators, signaling that a student might be struggling in a foundational area like phonological and phonemic awareness. This way, educators can start some early interventions to assist students in need. This is already happening in school boards, although inconsistently, across Ontario.

Pamela Beach
Pamela Beach

How?

In my research, I am interested in how elementary teachers learn about literacy and reading instruction. I talk to many teachers about how they integrate this learning into their programs, and I've been fortunate to be in a lot of different classrooms. There are teachers and schools doing an amazing job and already including the recommended screening tools in their practice.

For example, they are looking at the role of phonemic awareness, that is, the ability to identify and manipulate the smallest sounds in spoken language. Research shows that phonemic awareness is one of the more difficult areas for individuals with dyslexia. And these schools are already using sound assessments to identify students that might be struggling with identifying individual sounds in words, and then working with these students to overcome these difficulties.

Is it a consensus that, the earlier you start interventions, the easier the process will be?

Absolutely. Early intervention gives us the best results.

A lot of the vocabulary that students get is indirect, but they also acquire vocabulary through reading – words that don't come up in our everyday speech but are in our books and other documents. By the time children are in Grade 2 or 3, they are expected to have quite a large vocabulary that they recognize, read, and understand. At that point, anyone who is struggling with basic components of phonemic awareness and letter/sound association is falling behind already.

What are the main gaps in assisting students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities?

A general classroom teacher can use good evidence-based instruction to identify reading difficulties and assist students. But some students will still need more intensive intervention to reach their potential, which might include one-on-one work with a special education teacher.

Again, some schools are really doing wonderful things with the resources they have, including training teachers in and already implementing the Empower Reading program. We need to continue to find ways to best support teachers in this journey.

A boy reading a book.
Early intervention is key to help kids who struggle with reading. (Unsplash/ Michał Parzuchowski)

How do teachers currently seek instruction or training on literacy education?

Over the last several years I’ve researched teachers’ professional learning as it relates to literacy instruction. I’ve looked at how teachers use multimedia online resources in self-directed learning, with very consistent findings. Teachers are always looking for ways to improve their knowledge by ensuring that they are using evidence-based resources.

Working with pre-service teachers, I’ve found that they are interested in both theoretical information and practical training. I think both are essential: you need to understand the theory and background information to make decisions in your classroom.

But also, looking for evidence-based resources can be a struggle because of how research is sometimes presented. We need to continue to mobilize research findings in a way that respects and attracts teachers.

What are your current research goals?

My next research project is taking more of an international perspective. I'm looking at alternative approaches to early years education, like Montessori or Reggio Emilia in Italy, and how literacy is integrated into these approaches. Of course, they stem from different languages and that makes a difference, but they've still been adapted to English language contexts, as well as to other languages. There are also interesting alternative programs being used in other countries, like England, China, and Japan, as well as across the Canadian provinces. I want to understand what these different programs are doing, what they have in common, and what materials they are using to support their students in literacy.

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